Time, once again, to review some of my favorite music releases from the past year (pretty much the only regular feature of this “blog”). 2013 was a very fruitful year for alt‑R&B/future‑R&B as well as for Chicago-London bass hybrids. All the usual caveats apply. There is always too much music to hear all the great releases in a year but these grabbed me more than the rest. I look forward to reading all the other lists to catch up on what I missed.
Chants — I Feel Like I Feel It
If memory serves, I heard about this release via dj /rupture’s Mudd Up blog. The most obvious signposts are Shlohmo or Origami Sound’s post-Burial soundscapes but Chants manages to make an electronic music album that sounds extremely personal and expressive. There is a strong enough identity to shrug off easy comparisons.
Dark Sky — In Brackets
Great great 12-inch single. Deep house vibes across all four tracks but never formulaic or obvious. Some jazzy ride, some spastic kick drum variation, some house‑y organ shuffling — all adding up to an upbeat but mellow listen that is still very dance‑y.
Death Grips — Government Plates
Brutal, rhythmically slippery, and unapologetically aggressive. Strong brew.
Djrum — Seven Lies
Widescreen, evocative sonics wedded to varied electronic styles. The album starts in a loose house style but skillfully drops to hip hop tempos after a few tracks and allows the songs to breathe in the extra space afforded by the slower pace. Djrum knows how to exercise restraint and we are rewarded for it.
Fatima — Circle
Very strong single with two great slumped and sexy beats supporting Fatima’s unhurried vocals. Strong vibes and head nodding beats that I’ve come to expect from Kutmah’s dj sets (which is probably where I first heard this).
Jessy Lanza — Pull My Hair Back
There’s something so effective about Jessy Lanza’s breathy 80s pop vocal delivery.
Lapalux — Without You
This song squeezes my heart. Not an easy feat for a largely instrumental electronic music track. The strangulated vocal effects are haunting, though, and affecting.
Eric Lau — One of Many
Smooth neo-soul and hip hop in a Soulquarians mood. Beautiful vocal collaborations and a live feel make this album a great evening companion.
Lorn — Debris
Sonically gritty and experimental but still grounded in the rap music roots evident in L.A.‘s beat scene pioneers like Flying Lotus and Gaslamp Killer. Lorn adds a little snarl to his sound but never loses the groove.
Machinedrum — Vapor City
I’d venture to say that Machinedrum is probably putting out the best fusion of juke/footwork’s sonic and rhythmic ideas with UK bass music’s obsession with sub frequencies and space (and the resurgence of junglisms). It all works together in his productions in a way that feels like a natural progression from its influences.
Nosaj Thing — Home
Almost every time something came up in my shuffle play that made me stop and check for the artist, it was something off this album. Leaps forward from his debut album, this material made me completely change my opinion about Nosaj Thing. There’s a breathless, my-secret-crush-just-walked-in-the-room emotional tension to this album that is just so rare in electronic music.
Mark Pritchard — Ghosts
Mark Pritchard put out three incredible EPs in 2013. This is my favorite of those three. Just so unhinged and completely in control at the same time. Aimed squarely at the dance.
Owiny Sigoma Band — Power Punch
This sounds a bit like the soundtrack to an imagined Mali space program. Unconventional by rock standards, dance standards, and African pop standards, this is fun and mind expanding music.
SP:MC — Declassified
Been hearing this artist for years in Youngsta’s Rinse FM shows without ever knowing who they were. Everything I love about 2006–2008 era dubstep is in evidence: restraint, space, heavy subs, subtle syncopation, sinister atmospheric touches. Recommended.
Truth — Devil’s Hands
Lately, the only dubstep I’ve been buying on vinyl has been older material from my favorite years between 2006–2008. This song is so heavy that I made an exception. So much space that it’s basically stripped to the bones and empty, it still manages to knock you about the head.
V/A — Grime 2.0
Icy, Eski-influenced grime sonics meet Trap. So many highlights on this compilation. If you haven’t seen it, seek out the launch party video hosted by Boiler Room TV.